How To Stop Your Dog Pulling On The Leash During Walks

Here's how to get your dog to walk with you calmly and safely.

Pulling on the leash is a common dog misbehavior. Puppies and adult dogs alike can often be seen taking their owners for walks, instead of the other way around. Pulling on the leash can be much more than an annoying habit. Leash pulling can lead to escape in the case of a break in the collar or leash, and an out of control, off-leash dog can be both destructive and dangerous to itself and to others.

Leash pulling can result from a variety of things. In some cases, the dog may simply be so excited to go for a walk that it is unable to control itself. In other cases, the dog sees itself as the leader of the pack, and it simply takes the leadership position at the front of the pack.

If excitement is the motivation for leash pulling, simply giving the dog a few minutes to calm down can often be a big help. Simply stand with the dog on the leash for a couple minutes. After the initial excitement has worn off, many dogs are willing to walk calmly on their leash.

If the problem is one of control, however, some retraining may be in order. All dog training starts with the owner being established as the alpha dog or pack leader. Without this basic respect and understanding, no effective training can occur. For dogs exhibiting control issues, a step back to basic obedience commands is in order.

Dogs can often be helped through a formal obedience school structure. The dog trainer will of course be sure to train the handler as well as the dog. Any good dog trainer will insist on working with the dog owner as well as the dog.

Control is essential

The basis of teaching the dog to walk calmly on the lead is teaching it to calmly accept the collar and lead. A dog that is bouncing up and down while the collar is being put on will not walk properly. Begin by asking your dog to sit down, and insist that it sit still while the collar is put on. If the dog begins to get up, or gets up on its own after the collar is on, be sure to sit it back down immediately. Only begin the walk after the dog has sat calmly to have the collar put on, and continued to sit calmly as the leash is attached.

Once the leash is attached, it is important to make the dog walk calmly toward the door. If the dog jumps or surges ahead, gently correct it with a tug of the leash and return him to a sitting position. Make the dog stay, then move on again. Repeat this process until the dog is walking calmly by your side.

Repeat the above process when you reach the door. The dog should not be allowed to surge out of the door, or to pull you through the open door. If the dog begins this behavior, return the dog to the house and make it sit quietly until it can be trusted to walk through the door properly. Starting the walk in control is vital to creating a well mannered dog.

As you begin your walk, it is vital to keep the attention of the dog focused on you at all times. Remember, the dog should look to you for guidance, not take the lead itself. When walking, it is important to stop often. Every time you stop, your dog should stop. Getting into the habit of asking your dog to sit down every time you stop is a good way to keep your dog's attention focused on you.

Make sure your dog is looking at you, then move off again. If the dog begins to surge ahead, immediately stop and ask the dog to sit. Repeat this process until the dog is reliability staying at your side. Each time the dog does what you ask it to, be sure to reward it with a treat, a toy or just your praise.

Remember that if your dog pulls on the leash and you continue to walk it anyway, you are inadvertently rewarding that unwanted behavior. Dogs learn whether you are teaching them or not, and learning the wrong things now will make learning the right things later that much harder.

It is important to be consistent in your expectations. Every time the dog begins to pull ahead, immediately stop and make the dog sit. Continue to have the dog sit quietly until his focus is solely on you. Then start out again, making sure to immediately stop moving if the dog surges ahead.

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Teri Salvador
Really enjoyed your article on the training of a dog on a leash. My dog occasionally tries to get away with this and I immediately employ the methods you outlined. It works everytime. Very good article.